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Prevent the invasion of Green Belt land by Gypsies & Travellers using Retrospective Planning Applications

Comment 2nd July 2010

As the law currently stands, gypsies & travellers can buy any piece of green belt grazing pasture they like, submit a retrospective planning application (five minutes before the local council closes for a bank holiday weekend) and then move in immediately with earth-moving equipment and hundreds of tons of hardcore, destroying anything in sight so it is too late to evict them.

The law needs to be changed to prevent what is fast becoming a regular bank holiday occurrence, so that no implicit residential status or validity is granted to either the owners or those who make it onto the land, until such point as a planning application is fully approved and any legal processes are completed. Any attempt to modify the land for residential purposes prior to completion should imply mandatory rejection of the appliction.

Why does this matter?

There are many recent examples across the country of gypsy & traveller communities using this backdoor method to buy land and then destroying it before anyone has time to protest or for the council to issue a stop order (hence the cynical application last thing before a bank holiday weekend). Locals faced with such shock and awe tactics are called NIMBYs or racists for wanting to prevent the destruction of the green belt, yet the people destroying the land are left alone for fear of impinging on their somewhat intangible human rights.

It is high time that the playing field were levelled, with any & all applications for a change of use of land being made only in advance and never retrospectively. This should apply to normal householders and landowners as much as it does for gypsies and travellers, so that nobody receives preferential treatment.

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